#AsylumNO, the response: what do you think?

Dear Charlotte

Firstly, can I thank you for the time that you’ve taken in contacting us
either via twitter, guest services or the press office.  We haven’t been
ignoring you but as the Divisional Director here at Thorpe Park, I
wanted to be the one to answer your concerns.  As a team we have
listened to the feedback and fully respect the opinions of everyone who
has been in touch.  Our objectives here at Thorpe Park are to ensure
that our guests have a great time and we are always concerned with and
take very seriously any negative feedback.

We were of course aware of the ASDA and Tesco stories that made the
headlines a few weeks ago but believe there is a difference between that
example and The Asylum Maze which is primarily a matter of context.
Unlike Tesco and ASDA, the Asylum is not something you’ll find in any
public places.  It is set within a contained environment here at Thorpe
Park and is a very small element of a Halloween event aimed at adult
visitors – all of whom have made the decision to visit and have paid
entry for the Fright Nights experience.  As we’ve said, it has never
attracted any serious level of complaint from those that have visited.

As you know, the maze is also in its 8th year of operation and remains
one of the most popular attractions during the event – you may have seen
some of the many positive comments and feedback that our guests are
posting on Facebook and Twitter.  For those that have been through the
maze, it is clear that it is an extreme and simulated experience which
draws on classic horror film content and is themed as a cinematic
experience.  It is not intended, nor is it deemed to be by those that
have visited, to be in any way offensive and is not a realistic
portrayal of a mental health or indeed any other institution.

I understand that this response will not be the one that you’re after
but I do want to reassure you that we have listened and thoroughly
appreciate your opinion.

Kind regards,

Mike Vallis
Divisional Director

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About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards 2013. Winner of the World in Mentalists Mood Disorder blog 2012. Regular guest blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation http://www.internationalbipolarfoundation.org/ Expert by Experience working with Mind training department. Working on The Incoming Tide, a bipolar memoir. Find me on Twitter @BipolarBlogger or at my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BipolarBlogger
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12 Responses to #AsylumNO, the response: what do you think?

  1. Seems reasonable and well drafted response to me. Well done Thorpe Park for acknowledging some individuals concerns and hopefully putting them to rest.

  2. Henry Dunn says:

    Totally inadequate response. For a start, if they say that it does not resemble any psychiatric institution why call it the Asylum, with all the negative connotations that word brings? Secondly, the fact that people pay to go there does not mean that it is not a public place – just that members of the public pay to go there. Also, a lack of complaints does not make it right. Stereotypes will still be reinforced and the lack of complaints only shows that the majority of visitors do not understand these. Those that are offended, often sufferers of mental ill health, may not have the confidence to speak up against such a large organisation. I also find the connection between classic horror movies and asylums very offensive – in the same way that Asda’s cleaver-wielding “mental patient” and the Hannibal Lecter style “psycho ward” character are offensive. Asda’s is particularly paradoxical as they are owned by Walmart, the company who sell guns in their supermarkets. Then the response ends with the assurance that you have been listened to and appreciated – I don’t think so! If they fully understood and appreciated what you have said they would pull this repulsive “attraction” immediately.

  3. Jon says:

    Well, it’s still reinforcing damaging stereotypes of mentally ill people as being dangerous.
    Whether its in a “contained environment” or not is irrelevant

  4. Sian says:

    I think they have completely missed the point, they may have listened but the clearly didn’t understand. The fact that people haven’t complained previously only proves how accepted the stereotype is, which is all the more reason that a responsible company should not reinforce this. Do you think starting a petition via somewhere such as https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/ would be a helpful idea, just to demonstrate how many people find it offensive or at least inappropriate.

  5. ralph says:

    Polite and reasonable reply. Credit where it’s due – well done Thorpe Park. I’d prefer that this wasn’t there, but I understand the points made in the response.

  6. Ian Sadler says:

    Response equates to “we came, we listened, we ignored”. Given this mentality (so to speak) they’ll likely stage “Hospice” in 2014 – “Come and be attacked by cancer patients”.

    • I thought this too, Ian, especially now Merlin Entertainments have ignores no less that the Royal College of Psychiatry, supported my Mind and Rethink. Can you imagine them ignoring the country’s most eminent oncologists and dismissing Macmillan Cancer Care and Imperial Cancer Research? Would not happen x

  7. luaprelkniw says:

    He didn’t even hear the SWISH! as Charlotte’s points went whizzing past his narrow-minded head.

  8. Clare says:

    I completely agree with Henry Dunn that this is a totally inadequate response by Thorpe Park. It is largely a repetition of the tired old arguments that they have already trotted out (no one has complained before, it’s not intended to be offensive etc). And look, it’s very popular! they say, as if that clinches it. Their statement: “As we’ve said, it has never attracted any serious level of complaint from those that have visited” completely misses the point – it’s a biased sample. People who go to lap dancing clubs probably don’t send in many complaints to those companies either, but that doesn’t mean that lap dancing clubs are OK.

    The bit that really gets me is the patronising last sentence where Mike Vallis says: “I understand that this response will not be the one that you’re after but I do want to reassure you that we have listened and thoroughly appreciate your opinion.” This is straight out of the handbook of customer relations guff and I find his (utterly hollow) desire to reassure you offensive and patronising.

    If Thorpe Park did “fully respect the opinions of everyone who has been in touch”, if they really had listened and thoroughly appreciated the points you and others have been making, they would be showing integrity by taking action and pulling this event as soon as possible.

    I think what he really meant to say at the end was: “I understand that this response will not be the one that you’re after but I do want to reassure our shareholders that we will do anything we can to make as much money as possible.”

  9. Manda says:

    I have been following this with interest as both a sufferer of depression and the daughter of a woman who spent quite a bit of time in the last year of her life in a psychiatric hospital with a large number of quite seriously ill patients. I too am disappointed with Thorpe Park’s response, and very glad to see the growing campaign against this “attraction”.
    It has really brought home to me the lack of historical knowledge of the treatment of mental health in this country, as I had a quite heated discussion with my husband about why I supported this campaign- he didn’t see a problem with the attraction, as he felt it was simply copied from horror films. I also had quite an illuminating (but less heated and more questioning!) conversation with my Year 12 Politics students about this- we are studying pressure groups, so I mentioned the publicity as an example of the work of both individuals and organised groups. The level of ignorance of mental health issues in general was staggering, and it was alarming to find that most students didn’t see a problem with what Thorpe Park are doing- yet they all agreed that the mental patient costumes recently withdrawn by major supermarkets were inappropriate- a bizarre mix of attitudes!
    I have to admit that mental health issues are not something I have considered discussing with my own children yet, as they are all under 9, but this whole affair has made be think carefully about how and when I will start to share my illness and my family history with my sons. Unlike most of my students, I would like my sons to grow up to understand and empathise with why so many people have been offended and upset by the Thorpe Park affair.
    Perhaps I should invite a speaker from MIND in to my school to discuss the issue with my students- raise awareness and a practical demonstration of why we need pressure groups to promote and protect the rights of vulnerable minorities.

    • Hi there, I accompanied the organiser of the petition to Thorpe Park today, only she was allowed inside, the rest of us had to stand by the gates where we spoke to local press. Interesting what you say about children, I am just about to write a piece on what I told my kids and what age, so that may be of interest to you. Mind comes into schools to train teachers on MH issues, sometimes with a testimonial from someone like me on what it’s like to live with a mental health condition. Not sure where you are, but I also do public speaking/run groups on mental health so if you wanted to book me I could come and talk to students – I’m very approachable and have been asked every question under the sun! If I’m not nearby I am sure there are other trainers/facilitators who would enjoy working with your young people.

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